Dear Abby:

My husband and I live in a small community of fewer than 200 people. We installed a swimming pool in our back yard and made the mistake of allowing neighbors to come over to swim.

I recently started a home-based business, and one of my neighbors refuses to understand that I have to work. Even in the winter she comes over and sits on our yard furniture, waiting for me to come out and talk to her. In the summer, she comes unannounced and either sunbathes in our yard or swims in our pool. One day she caught my poor husband on the deck tanning in his birthday suit.

We have asked people to call before coming, but some of our neighbors have come to swim and left their kids there -- as though I am expected to baby-sit for them.

Have you anything I could laminate and post in my back yard that will remind my neighbors about observing common courtesy and not coming over unannounced?

Desperate in Kansas

There's an old saying, if folks take advantage of you once, shame on them; if they take advantage of you twice, shame on YOU.

You can put a stop to the drop-ins by becoming assertive. The next time you find your yard populated with uninvited guests, go outside and tell them, "I'm sorry, but today isn't a good day for me to have people use the pool. Next time, please call before coming over."

Some pool owners have solved the problem by installing a flagpole in their yards and raising a "welcome flag" when guests are invited to swim. Others post signs next to the pool area, stating that the pool is open to guests from ( ) to ( ) on specified days and that children must be supervised by parents at all times.

It is extremely important that you be properly insured because should someone be injured on your property, you would be liable -- so call your insurance agent and make certain your homeowner's insurance is current and adequate. Good luck.

P.S. Have you considered putting in a fence with a locked gate?

Dear Abby:

Veterans and their families might be interested to know about a new Web site: www.govbenefits.gov. It's government-sponsored, and organizes 500 federal and state benefit programs, targeting citizens into one single site. Veterans can log on, answer a few anonymous questions and find out which benefits they may be eligible to receive. It's also a helpful site for case workers, relatives or caregivers.

I answered the questions for my grandfather, a World War II veteran from 1941-45, and discovered 21 benefit programs for which he might be eligible.

Keith Nelson, Washington

Bless you for sharing this information with my readers. Upon further investigation, I learned that www.govbenefits.gov was created by the U.S. Department of Labor, with contributions by 10 federal agencies and several states. (There is at least one benefit in every state.) Hosted by firstgov.gov, which just celebrated its fourth anniversary, the site also includes a Spanish language version: www.govbenefits.gov/es. Bravo!

Quote for the Day: "How many people on Earth serve people? And how many people on Earth serve the Earth? The difference in the numbers must be enormous. It would reveal that the Earth is definitely not the primary concern of the human species. This might be fatal both to the Earth and to humanity. Please, leaders of the Earth and the nations, wake up to this potentially fatal disparity."

-- Robert Muller

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate